by Justin Mckibben | Apr 15, 2019 | Addiction Stigma, Big Pharma, Celebrity, John Oliver, Opioids, Prescription Drugs
John Oliver VS Big Pharma
This is definitely not the first time John Oliver has taken on Big Pharma and the issues with the opioid crisis in America. In fact, at the start of this recent segment, he acknowledges his previous episode before setting his focus on the changes since then, or lack thereof. On another hard-hitting episode of Last Week Tonight the well-known English comedic commentator takes on the Sackler Family, Mckesson Corporation, and the failed attempts to curb the influx of prescription opioids into an already volatile environment.
A Comedian on a Mission
As a writer for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart John Oliver won an Emmy for his work with taking a comedic yet impactful look into important political and social issues. As a host on his own HBO series, Last Week Tonight, Oliver has made a name for himself by taking deeper dives into the details of certain issues. Each moment of troubling truth or eye-opening examination is balanced with jokes that are either intensely ironic or ridiculously abstract. For instance, in this latest episode, Oliver steps off the serious discussion of Big Pharma corruption to deliver a few bits about the true nature of bears, with comical and cartoon-ish visual aids.
Moreover, Oliver tends to deliver some relatively detailed arguments, regardless of the topic at hand. While some may consider him a more liberal voice in the media, with open criticism of the Trump administration and other prominent conservative voices, he also criticizes other media outlets also considered to be more liberal. Recently, we questioned CNN for their coverage on the arrest of Julian Assange.
Needless to say, his take on the opioid crisis is a sound and even hilarious dissection of everything wrong with Big Pharma and the policies that allowed them to flourish.
Taking on Distributors
First, Oliver took on companies that are responsible for dispensing drugs from manufacturers to hospitals and pharmacies. These companies are supposed to alert authorities in the event that they notice suspicious quantities of control substances being ordered. However, several have been called out in recent years for failure to fulfill that responsibility.
John Oliver begins his take on distributors by talking about the story of Kermit, West Virginia. In the year 2016, more than 3 million doses of hydrocodone were ordered in one year, by just one pharmacist, in a city of only 400 people. That is around 7,500 doses for every resident!
For some background, McKesson Corporation is an American pharmaceutical distributor based out of San Francisco. In 2018, the company revenues were counted at $208.4 billion. In 2008, the DEA claimed that McKesson had failed to properly control their controlled substances. At the time, the Big Pharma distributor was allowed to avoid any admittance of wrongdoing as long as they agreed to pay a fine of $13,250,000. They were also required to develop and implement a controlled drug monitoring program.
However, by many accounts, McKesson failed to live up to that pledge. Oliver points out that one DEA agent wrote of the company:
“Their bad acts continued and escalated to a level of egregiousness not seen before.”
John Oliver points out how the strategy of expecting pharmaceutical companies to monitor themselves seems to consistently fall short of effective. In the case of Kermit, the McKesson Corp was responsible for distributing over 5 million doses of opioids in only two years.
In 2017, McKesson ended up having to make another settlement of $150 million. However, as Oliver points out,
“Which yes, sounds like a lot… until you realize that it is less than 1/1,000th of their revenue for one year.”
Which brings around Oliver’s point about how companies who profit from the opioid crisis are dealt with. He notes that for Big Pharma giants like McKesson, paying a fine is “just the cost of doing business.”
Trouble for Purdue Pharma
Kicking off the piece of the segment about the infamous opioid empire of Purdue Pharma, Oliver notes the history of Purdue’s aggressive and egregious marketing tactics for OxyContin. The company faced massive backlash after years of marketing the opioid painkiller as a less addictive painkiller that was safe to use for the treatment of common conditions like backaches.
Here, Oliver hits us with one of the clever comparisons, reminding us that once upon a time companies used to marketing cocaine for toothaches.
Next, Oliver takes on the Sackler Family, citing a 2017 article from The New Yorker stating the family has a collective net worth of $13 billion. As the battle against corporations tied to the opioid crisis intensifies, this family name has been pulled into the fray with protests and lawsuits calling out their involvement in Purdue Pharma’s business plan. On Last Week Tonight, Oliver also takes a look at one individual from the Sackler Family in particular.
Actors Try on Richard Sackler
Richard served as President of Purdue Pharmaceuticals from 1999 to 2003 and spent several years on the board with seven other members of the family. Overall, he was with the company throughout the opioid crisis. Richard Sackler is named in several lawsuits brought by different states.
In Massachusetts, one lawsuit asserts that Richard demanded to be sent into the field with sales reps on visits to doctors. This is something John Oliver believes is in correlation with a very specific purpose. He cites statements made by Richard at a company event that the launch of OxyContin would be followed by “a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.”
Even as the imminent threat presented by OxyContin became apparent, Oliver adds that Richard Sackler pushed forward with this attitude of selling more opioids, with very little concern for the impact. In an attempt to make the points of this segment feel more meaningful, John Oliver even enlists the help of several actors to deliver quotes attributed to Richard Sackler.
First, there is the American actor and 1989 Batman, Michael Keaton. Oliver points out that when evidence was mounting that OxyContin was causing widespread addiction, Sackler urged the company to blame people suffering from addiction to take the focus off of their product. When quoting the actual words of Sackler, the amazing Michael Keaton states:
“We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”
Here John Oliver acknowledges that the Sacklers and Purdue vigorously deny these claims. They insist that these quotes are being taken out of context and that they did not cause the opioid crisis.
Probably one of the most troubling revelations to come from the segment is Oliver’s argument that the Sackler family has fought hard to avoid true transparency regarding their involvement in the opioid crisis. More specifically, how the company has settled many of the lawsuits against them by demanding the stipulation that evidence is sealed and unavailable to the public. For instance, one lawsuit against Kentucky was settled on the condition that the states Attorney General destroy 17 million pages of documents pertaining to the allegations against Purdue.
A leak from this case actually included the transcript from a video deposition with Richard Sackler. While the video itself is unavailable, John Oliver again found a way to make a powerful statement by having Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston get in on the action. Suffice it to say, the dramatization of that interview does not play very well for the Sackler in question. One part they highlight was a speech given by Sackler supposedly bragging about how quickly they had gotten the DEA to approve OxyContin. And as Oliver says, Cranston goes “full Walter White” on this video.
The segment also enlists Michael K. Williams, who famously portrayed Omar Devone Little on The Wire, to give an intense reading of the transcript. And finally, Richard Kind from Spin City and A Bug’s Life gave some goofy “I don’t know” answers from the over 100 times it was mentioned in the real deposition.
At the end of the day, John Oliver and Last Week Tonight make a call for transparency with Big Pharma companies. He acknowledges that while his show tries to find some way to laugh through the pain of the opioid crisis, it is important that more be done to hold opioid makers and distributors accountable. This seems to be a growing sentiment, as the Sacklers prepare to face numerous lawsuits. More lawmakers, public health officials, and advocacy groups are calling for transparency and culpability for any business that profited from the opioid crisis. Meanwhile, the fight against addiction and overdose death rates continues.
For those who are struggling, comprehensive addiction treatment is a vital resource to overcoming opioid addiction. If you or someone you love is suffering, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
by Justin Mckibben | May 31, 2018 | Addiction, Addiction Medicine, Addiction Stigma, Addiction Treatment, Bill Nye, Celebrity, Drug Abuse, Stigma
That quirky Science Guy with those theoretically-funky and quantifiably-fresh bow ties from your childhood is back to work making science fun with the help of celebrities and strange experiments. Since 1993, Bill Nye has been trying to teach kids, and the world, about the importance of exploring science. Now, with two seasons of his Netflix series Bill Nye Saves the World already in the bag, our boy Bill has made his way to a hard-hitting topic that has a huge impact on America today- addiction. And according to the science guy himself, one of the biggest myths he is out to debunk is that addiction is a choice. In fact, this kind of stigma may be one of the single greatest hurdles for those who need treatment.
Now we can admit that Bill Nye is not necessarily an authority on mental health or behavioral science. However, the American science communicator began his career as a mechanical engineer for Boeing Corporation, inventing a hydraulic resonance suppressor tube used on 747 airplanes. He eventually left the company to pursue a career in entertainment, and following the success of his show, Nye continued to advocate for science. He became the CEO of the Planetary Society and helped develop sundials for the Mars Exploration Rover missions. So while he may not be an expert himself, it is safe to say he is a smart man who knows how to do his research.
In a recent interview with The Fix, Bill Nye shared some of his thoughts on some of the most crucial questions we have to examine when looking at addiction and its effects. Beyond that, we look at some of the topics covered in the Netflix piece.
Bill Nye Acknowledges the Prevalence of Addiction
One of the first things Nye does is to point out how widespread the issue of addiction truly is. When asking his studio audience if they know someone living with addiction, whether in recovery or not, almost everyone in the room raised their hands. Nye tells The Fix,
“Addiction is a huge problem for our society. It’s very expensive. You have addicts getting addicted to all sorts of things and they become unproductive, they destroy their families, and they, for better or for worse, have very low qualities of life,”
Bill Nye emphasizes that addiction is not limited to a specific economic or social class, sharing a story about the wife of a close friend. This was a person who became addicted to the powerful opioid Oxycontin after breaking her ankle. This family quickly fell apart due to the addiction, despite being successful and affluent.
“It was horrible. It went on for years and years…she got into harder and harder drugs. She was an accessory to murder with a drug dealer, and this was a family that was very well off because of their success and careers. It was really heartbreaking.”
Throughout the segments, Bill Nye continues to expand on the brain’s involvement in addiction. He even bring in people to discuss treatments, and talks about behavioral addictions.
Addressing Choice and Changes in the Brain
Early on in “The Addiction Episode” of Bill Nye Saves the World, the science guy makes a point to distinguish from “really liking chocolate or re-watching episodes of Game of Thrones” and “real conditions that do real harm.”
He immediately points out that our society often believes addiction is an obvious choice, an avoidable weakness, or a moral failure. If you have been awake for the past few decades, you have probably seen this opinion expressed at some point. From lengthy articles like this one (but with better writers) to viral videos on social media featuring some guy yelling at a camera phone because it makes him an expert, people have argued that if people were strong enough they would fix themselves. Bill Nye says,
“I’m here to tell you that just ain’t so.”
Now, while Bill Nye may not be an addiction expert himself, he has surely done his homework over the years by interviewing various experts in the field of addiction medicine and recovery. This isn’t even the first time he’s tried to debunk the myth of addiction being a choice. Years ago he did a similar episode addressing addiction on the show The Eyes of Nye, which featured addictionologist, Dr. Drew. In this past interview, Dr. Drew makes a very strong argument stating:
“The definition of a disease, to me, would be an abnormal physiological process brought on by a relationship between the genetics of the individual and the environment that creates a set of signs and symptoms that progress in a predictable way which we call ‘natural history,’ and by effecting the natural history we can create a predictable response to treatment. That is a disease, and addiction does fit that.”
On Bill Nye Saves the World, he uses his trademark fun and goofy way to explain how dopamine released in the brain’s reward center by particular behaviors over time actually changes the brain, with the help of orange trees and a light-up LED brain. Nye states,
“When and if this happens depends on both the hand you are dealt- your genes- and what’s going on around you- your environment- it’s akin to the old question of nature versus nurture. Except with addiction, it’s both. It’s nature… and nurture!”
Bill Nye explains later on how the human ability to adapt is intimately connected to addiction, adding that while we can get used to just about anything when our brains and bodies adapt to a drug it makes quitting incredibly difficult to accomplish, especially when you factor in withdrawal symptoms.
Putting Addiction into Perspective
But good old Bill doesn’t expect you to just take his word for it, either. Throughout the episode he speaks with various people concerning the truth about addiction and different kinds of treatment for addiction. The conversations include people with various points of reference, including:
Maria Bamford, comedian/actress
Bamford sits with Bill to discuss her own experience with what she calls an “addictive process”: an eating disorder. She talks about finding a 12-Step program at 21 years old, and the value she has found in connecting with others.
Cara Santa Maria, science communicator and journalist
Cara Santa Maria talks about the importance of having individualized treatment options that go above and beyond the traditional 12 step programs. She also believes that people should also consider connecting addiction to deeper psychological issues, such as trauma.
Dr. Carl Hart advocates that there is a real need for more comprehensive assessments concerning addiction. Dr. Hart believes the vast majority of people who use drugs, including heroin, do not become addicted. Dr. Hart believes also putting too much focus on the drugs and not enough focus on the behaviors makes treatment less effective.
Lieutenant Robert Chromik Jr. of a Sherriff’s Office in Ohio
The officer from Ohio states that his precinct has been working to help people get clean instead of arresting them. He says that out of 2,400 “clients” involved in the program, 81% are now living clean. Lt. Chromik also agrees with his fellow panelists that specialized treatment is essential because there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
In the end, the episode is pretty interesting. This writers only critque would be that the ending itself seems almost incomplete. It includes an unrelated, but pretty cool segment about aquaculture with a guest scientist. Still, without a definitive signing-off moment to summarize the concepts Bill covers, the impact of a scientific understanding of addiction almost feels lost. However, between the piece from The Eyes of Nye and this new episode, there is a lot of interesting information that is essential to our society learning to treat addiction, and those who are suffering, better. Overall, one of the most important parts of the conversation is the emphasis on compassion and supporting effective and individualized treatment options. Bill Nye and the many individuals throughout the episode present various perspectives on the issue of addiction. Surely, not all these people agree on everything. Still, the episode works hard to offer a simple explanation of the scientific evidence in the brain and the body as to how addiction really works. Hopefully, more people can appreciate the science behind it.
Thanks Bill. Science still rules.
Another important take away from this episode is that personalized treatment is a unique and life-changing tool to helping get people off of drugs or alcohol. If you or someone you love is struggling, there is professional and innovative help for you today. Please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
by staff | May 2, 2018 | Addiction, Addiction Stigma, Bullying, Coping Skills, Depression, Family, Mental Health, Mental Health Stigma, Mood Disorders, Parenting, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, Stigma
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Bullying is a concept we are all familiar with. We each experience bullying at some point in life, to one extent or another. Even those who become bullies have often been bullied at some point. Technology and social media have created a whole new breed of cyberbullying, and too many people don’t take bullying very seriously. When you look at bullying statistics, the impact can lead to other real issues, including substance abuse and addiction.
To be a Bully
Firstly, let us look at what it is to be a bully. The title is typically described as the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate, typically to force someone to do what one wants. The site stopbullying.gov defines it as unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves real or perceived power imbalance. This behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time. It also concludes that both those who are bullied and those who bully often have serious, lasting problems.
Bullying statistics show three categories of behavior:
1. Verbal Bullying
This type of bullying is about the things we say or write. Verbal bullying includes:
- Inappropriate sexual comments
2. Social Bullying
This involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:
- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Telling other children not to be friends with someone
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Embarrassing someone in public
3. Physical Bullying
Physical Bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. It includes:
- Taking or breaking someone’s things
- Making mean or rude hand gestures
Sadly, the prevalence of bullying often convinces people that it is just a rite of passage. A lot of people don’t take the issue seriously enough. Adults often justify the behavior as a sign of immaturity, without realizing the genuine harm that comes from it.
The Impact of Bullying
Being bullied can lead to many other adversities in life, including physical violence and mental health problems.
Because both behaviors are so common, it is difficult to correlate bullying and substance use. When looking at addiction and bullying statistics, according to 2016 Monitoring the Future survey:
- More than 17% of children have tried drugs by 8th grade
- Almost 50% have used illicit drugs by senior year in high school
- Childhood alcohol use rates are even higher
According to the CDC’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey:
- 20% of American high schoolers have been bullied in school in the past year
- More than 15% have been bullied electronically in the past year
Bullying can erode a child’s self-esteem. It can deplete their confidence, even for those who parents may believe are confident enough to endure a bully. Over time, they learn to question their self-worth. If a bully targets a specific attribute of the individual, they may begin to obsess over it.Some bullying statistics show that those who have been bullied are six times more likely to be diagnosed with mental health issues. It is extremely common for victims of bullying to develop progressive behavioral disorders such as:
Over time, they may turn to alcohol or drugs to ease the pain. Also, the desire to fit in and feel accepted can lead a child using drugs to connect with people. Several studies show the risk factors for psychological health problems, substance abuse, and bullying statistics often overlap.
Similarity in Symptoms
When we look closer at bullying statistics and at the warning signs of substance abuse, we find that the symptoms are extremely similar.
Common Symptoms of Bullying
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in eating habits
- Eating disorders
- Poor performance in school or work
- Loss of interest in activities
- Alcohol or drug use
Common Symptoms of Substance Use Disorder
- Mood swings
- Poor performance in school or work
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Health problems
Looking at some of the more general warning signs we can see how many are present concerning both issues.
Substances and Bullying Statistics
Ultimately, drugs can become a crutch for numbing the emotional pain of being bullied. While it is harder to predict whether being the victim of bullying will lead to substance abuse, with bullies there is also a very real risk of developing issues with drug use and addiction.
Bullying statistics often show that bullies themselves typically suffer from a variety of emotional and behavioral challenges. Sometimes a child lives in a home with domestic violence, and so they become aggressive with their peers to expel their frustration. Yet, they may still use drugs or alcohol to escape the painful life at home. Even the act of bullying itself is typically an indication of diminished self-worth, and just like with the victims, that lack of self-worth can lead them to use drugs.
Some even believe bullying could be comparable to an addiction itself. Some psychologists compare bullying to other ‘process addictions’ like gambling, overworking or shopping. While we do not recognize bullying as an addiction, many believe the comparison could be helpful to address the issue.
Compassion and Care
Whether or not someone is a victim or bullying, or has been a bully themselves, we all deserve respect and compassion. When it comes to providing care for those who struggle with substance use disorder, it should always be a priority to help people develop healthy coping skills, while gaining self-worth. As people struggle to deal with emotional and behavioral challenges, there should be resources there to help guide them toward personal development. Not just getting off of substances, but also to empower them as an individual.
One issue we have with facing bullying head-on is that people typically think of a “bully” as someone inherently bad. However, life is not so simple. A child who bullies isn’t a bad child, they are just interacting with their world in an unhealthy and aggressive way. They still deserve understanding and support.
We commonly see the same stigma with people struggling with addiction. Too often they are labeled as “bad” people, but the truth is that they are just dealing with things in a self-destructive and unhealthy way. Dealing with substance use disorder and with bullying means meeting it with love and care, not judgment and punishment.
Perhaps if focus more on supporting people, we have a better chance of changing addiction and bullying statistics for the betterment of everyone.
Palm Healthcare Company believes in the importance of compassionate and comprehensive care for those struggling with substance abuse and addiction. Providing a safe medical detox, a personalized recovery program and an innovative approach to holistic health, our mission is to help people transform into the person they want to be. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
by Justin Mckibben | Jan 9, 2018 | Addiction Stigma, Drug Abuse, Opioids, Prescription Drugs, Professionals, Stigma
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
The opioid crisis has affected every community in America. Opioids affect rural working class people, those in the inner city and suburbs, or even the wealthy and well-to-do professionals. While drug abuse in business has been highlighted in blockbuster films like the Wolf of Wall Street, the current reality is not far from it. According to addiction experts, substance use disorder is making a sobering impact on the financial industry.
This comes from not just an upscale partying lifestyle, but also from drugs used to manage performance and stress, along with physical pain. According to addiction experts, the financial industry itself is actively turning a blind eye to the issues concerning opioid abuse on Wall Street because money is still the priority, and stigma still gets in the way.
Opioids on Wall Street: White-Collar Confessions
As it stands there is no comprehensive research that takes a detailed look at opioid abuse in Wall Street among finance professionals. So we can’t exactly show the numbers to prove it’s prevalence. However, what we see consistently is a dramatic increase in addiction and overdose rates all over the nation in recent years.
Luckily, professionals from this demographic are beginning to speak out in hopes of progressive change.
One such individual is Trey Laird, a former Wall Street trader, who recently spoke to CNBC about his six-year opioid addiction. During the conversation Laird reiterates the critical understanding that substance use disorder can reach anyone, saying:
“Addiction pervades every single socioeconomic demographic that there is. Every industry, every race, men, women. It doesn’t care who you are,”
After getting clean himself, Laird went on to open a sober living community and says he hopes to specifically serve the Wall Street and white collar demographic.
According to Laird, there has been more talk about opioid addiction among people in higher socioeconomic brackets, but there is still much work that needs to be done. He acknowledges that increasing awareness is doing a great deal, but that the problem is also at an increase. Wall Street may finally be talking about it, but how many professionals will get the help they truly need?
Opioids on Wall Street: Stocks and Stigma
One of the biggest obstacles facing white-collar workers like those in Wall Street is the engrained stigma still attached to addiction. Even with all the shifts in our culture toward a better understanding of substance use and the compassion for those struggling, professionals still have this seemingly unbearable hurdle in front of them.
Truthfully, stigma is something that prevents most people from getting help. Professionals will often be too afraid of losing their jobs to admit they need help. Many in the world of Wall Street and finance may have no information on how to seek out treatment while adhering to their professional boards’ guidelines and business practices.
With white-collar workers, this may be an especially difficult thing because the idea of addiction is so often attached to stereotypes of the unemployable, the homeless, the unreliable and unstable that their high-earning careers might minimize the impact drugs have on their lives. Wall Street stockbrokers and traders might not see themselves as having a problem as long as they can function, which brings in the idea of the “functioning addict.”
Opioids on Wall Street: Function Addiction is Still Addiction
Many white-collar workers who struggle with drugs or alcohol may consider themselves a “functioning addict”, meaning they are less likely see their actions as a problem because they are able to maintain their professional or even personal lives. To make matters worse, frequently the people around someone who is professionally successful will not believe the addiction is real. They may admit that you’ve been careless or destructive in some respects, but will ultimately minimize it due to your financial stability.
As long as you’re making money and paying the bills how could you possibly be “that bad?”
Well, because “functioning addiction” is still an addiction.
Addiction isn’t about whether or not you are able to hold down a steady income. It does not depend on whether or not other people recognize that you have a problem or your competence with your profession. While addiction can and will have an impact on these things, it isn’t always as black and white as most people like to pretend.
Notice how earlier we said you may “maintain” other areas of your life? Well, we mean to say that you can get by for a while, but eventually, the effects of addiction will catch up with you. It could be in the form of serious health consequences or other devastating circumstances. It could take days, months or even years, but it will leave a mark.
Sadly, “functioning addicts” are also far less likely to get the help they desperately need.
Opioids on Wall Street: It Could Be You
While you might be able to keep your addiction secret, in the beginning, things will eventually get worse. Eventually, your addiction will become unmanageable.
If you think you might fit the “functioning addiction” criteria, look at the following questions and answer them honestly.
- Do you often think about using drugs or drinking?
- Do you find it hard to stop after you start drinking or using?
- Are you scheduling your time around drinking or using drugs?
- Have you tried to stop before, but found that you were unable to?
- Do you drink or use drugs first thing in the morning?
- Are you drinking or using drugs at work?
- Do you hide your drug use or drinking?
- Have you done something risky, like driven drunk?
- Do you worry about your drug use or drinking?
If you find you are answering “yes” more than “no” then you should seriously consider speaking with a medical or addiction professional about your drug use or drinking.
The opioid crisis is nothing to be ignored. Despite all that we think we have learned about addiction too many professionals don’t get the help they need. No one is exempt from the destruction of addiction. Opioids don’t care what street you work on, Wall Street or not, they can ruin your life all the same. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
by Justin Mckibben | Jan 4, 2018 | Addiction Stigma, Donald Trump, Drug Abuse, Drug Policy, Law Enforcement, Marijuana, News
Before the hype around recreational use of marijuana in California could even begin to dwindle, new reports are stating that President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions is planning to begin a federal crackdown on marijuana laws.
Jeff Sessions is set to announce today that he is rescinding memos sent out from the Obama administration that established a policy of non-interference with state laws concerning marijuana use. For some time now there have been several stories highlighting Jeff Sessions’ disagreement with allowing states to decide their own laws concerning medical or recreational marijuana use. Some sources indicate he has been planning a new strategy that will actually bring federal law to a head against state marijuana policies.
UPDATE: According to The Washington Post, Jeff Sessions notes in a memo sent to U.S. attorneys that federal law prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana. Sessions undid four previous Obama administration memos that advised against bringing prosecutions in states where marijuana was legalized to use for recreational or medical purposes. Sessions said prosecutors should use their own discretion in weighing whether charges were appropriate.
So what does all this mean for marijuana states?
The Obama Era Policy
The memo essentially describing the Obama-era policy through the Justice Department is known as the “Cole Memo”. It was named after then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole in 2013.
The “Cole Memo” outlined new priorities for federal prosecutors in states legalized use of marijuana. These shifts in policy represented a major change from the strict enforcement approach of past administrations to an attitude of non-interference. Back in 2014 U.S. Congress approved legislation preventing the DEA from carrying out any raids, arrest, or prosecutions of patients using medical marijuana. Congress also blocked law enforcement agencies under the Justice Department from consuming federal dollars in efforts to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized the use of medicinal marijuana. Under President Barack Obama, the Department of Justice did not pursue action against states that legalized recreational marijuana use. In 2015 there was a bipartisan effort in Congress to block the DEA from using federal funding for aggressively pursuing marijuana in the states where it was legalized.
The Obama era outline essentially allowed states to decide whether or not to legalize marijuana and to what extent. The federal prosecutors would not intervene as long as the state regulations did not threaten other federal priorities. So the distribution of marijuana to minors and cartels was still prohibited.
So with this announcement, many are wondering if Jeff Sessions will be working to undo other changes as well.
The Jeff Sessions Reversal
At the time of writing this article, whether or not Jeff Sessions will offer up a new strategy for dealing with marijuana-friendly states or not has yet to be seen. At this time the great concern is how this announcement may end up putting state and federal law in conflict, and what to expect out of enforcement from the federal government.
But many say this is a frustrating development, especially considering that President Trump has said in the past that he would not allow his attorney general to change the current policy, telling a reporter that,
“I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”
If we go back to February of 2017, Sean Spicer suggested in a press conference that the Trump administration and the Justice Department already had the intentions to no longer turn a blind eye to states with their own legal marijuana laws. At the time Spicer said the Trump administration would be “taking action” against these states. Contradicting all the talk of states’ rights and rolling back federal enforcement.
Many are wondering if President Trump was consulted about this decision, or if he has been made aware of the implications of this change. Especially since it goes against his original campaign promise to leave marijuana laws to the states.
This move would lay the groundwork for the federal government to begin a crackdown on the rapidly increasing marijuana industry all across the country. If these reports are confirmed this afternoon with no new innovations in their place, this move could have a drastic impact on the economics around the marijuana industry.
Sessions Track Record
However, this should all come as no surprise, since Jeff Sessions has repeatedly spoken out against decriminalization of marijuana and a return to the failed tactics of the War on Drugs at every turn.
In fact, a key adviser on marijuana policy to Jeff Sessions, Dr. Robert DuPont, believes drug testing should be a routine part of primary-care medicine. He has gone as far to suggest that primary-care physicians should be given the power to force some patients into treatment against their will. DuPont also suggests the following treatment to subject individuals to monitoring and random drug tests for up to 5 years.
Dr. Robert DuPont was among a small group of drug-policy experts involved last month in a closed-door meeting with Sessions to discuss federal options for dealing with the rapid liberalization of state marijuana laws.
The Marijuana States
Eight states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing for personal consumption of marijuana for recreational purposes. 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Even more states recently have begun to talk about changes in their own policies. California voters pushed through legislation to legalize recreational use back in November of 2017, and with the start of the New Year, those laws went into effect. Now, not even a week later, the fate of this state’s new policy is hanging in the balance.
Needless to say, marijuana advocates all over the nation are troubled by this news. According to NORML Political Director Justin Strekal,
“If the Trump administration goes through with a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana, they will be taking billions of dollars away from regulated, state-sanctioned businesses and putting that money back into the hands of drug cartels,”
But some states are not ready to give up on their marijuana laws. Other Republicans, such as Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, are avidly speaking out in opposition to the recent decision by Jeff Sessions. Senator Gardner has vowed to prevent any new appointees for the Department of Justice from being confirmed until this reversal has been reversed.
Hopefully, when Jeff Sessions makes his official announcement, we will have some more clarity on how the federal government plans to address marijuana use going forward.
While the legal status of marijuana may soon be up for a serious debate, the fact remains that it is still possible to abuse marijuana. Whether a drug is legal or not, there are still risks. There are already plenty of legal drugs that cost thousands of lives every year. When substance use becomes habitual it can be extremely harmful to an individual who struggles with substance use disorder. Even though marijuana is not claiming lives like the opioid epidemic, for some it has adverse effects on the quality of life.
While marijuana is not considered to be as dangerous as other illicit drugs, such as heroin or methamphetamines, it can cause dependence for people who use the drug. The typical consensus that marijuana is not as physically destructive and addictive as other “harder” drugs doesn’t change the fact that psychiatrists also believe the psychological impacts of a substance do matter when talking about an addiction. These effects can be just as detrimental.
Marijuana addiction treatment offers a safe and secure environment while providing a variety of therapeutic opportunities to help develop a healthy lifestyle without relying on the use of marijuana or other drugs.
There still needs to be resources available to help people who suffer from abuse. Supporting addiction recovery means breaking the stigma and offering holistic and effective solutions. Palm Healthcare Company is here to help. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
by Justin Mckibben | Dec 1, 2017 | Addiction Stigma, Donald Trump, Drug Policy, Fentanyl, Heroin, Law Enforcement, News, Opioids, Prescription Drugs
This past Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway will be the Trump administration’s go-to for opioid crisis efforts. This announcement has been met with both praise and criticism. Some say this appointment actually gives validity to the White House’s commitment to solving the ongoing opioid epidemic, while others see it as the exact opposite.
For a little background, Kellyanne Conway worked as a pollster before becoming Trump’s campaign manager during his run for the 2016 presidential nomination. Currently, Conway serves as a White House spokeswoman and Trump surrogate. She has been seen on countless panels discussing the biggest topics and politics. She absolutely has her work cut out for her, so can Kellyanne Conway compete?
The Kellyanne Cons and Pros
So can this infamous Trump advocate, the woman who practically accidentally coined the phrase “alternative facts” compete with the opioid crisis in America? Kallyanne Conway has become notorious for defending some of President Trump’s most flagrant and controversial “alternative facts” in the media. But in her defense, she also has said some things that seem to highlight important prospects for this problem.
So here are some things to consider when we talk about Kellyanne Conway being put in charge of the opioid epidemic.
Lack of Experience
One of the big problems with this appointment people are pointing out is the lack of experience. Critics say this appointment speaks to how little passion the current administration is actually putting into fighting the opioid crisis since Kellyanne Conway has no experience in public health or with drug policy.
But in a time where Americans seem to be putting more trust in people that don’t typically meet the description of “qualified” in hopes that an outsider might bring better results, it makes sense that a lot of people might still hope Kellyanne can do some good.
Yet, there are still those who aren’t so sure. Tom Synan, a police chief and member of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition in Ohio tweeted in response to the announcement:
“Ummm… did we run out of Dr’s, cops, addiction specialists or people who are actually dealing with this on the street to lead this?”
As a first responder, Synan is one of many people who are frustrated with the current actions being taken.
“I don’t want to get involved in politics, but it seems like it is a political position … I think I would have gone out to the country and tapped into people who are national experts who are on the street who are literally dealing with this issue every day,”
It seems many on the front lines are not impressed with the Trump administration’s move to put Kellyanne Conway in charge of efforts to combat one of the worst drug problems in the nation’s history.
Publicity and Perception
During a press briefing about the Justice Department’s efforts to combat the crisis where the announcement was made, Sessions said President Donald Trump chose Kellyanne Conway to “change the perception” about opioids and reduce addictions and deaths.
According to Sessions, President Trump has made the epidemic “a top priority for his administration, including every senior official and Cabinet member.”
An opioid policy expert Andrew Kolodny of Brandeis University actually defended the move when speaking to BuzzFeed News, stating:
“It is a positive sign. She is a high-profile figure in the administration, showing the administration takes this seriously,”
Some believe this can offer a sign of hope for more concrete action since many recovery advocates say despite the declaration of a public health emergency from President Trump there has been very little action taken to change the state of the epidemic.
Bertha Madras, a member of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and Harvard Medical School professor, said:
“The most important thing that Kellyanne Conway will provide is access … but also commitment… She was at all the meetings, she listened and took copious notes.”
Let’s hope those are some good notes because thus far the opioid problem in America has shown no signs of slowing down. Jeff Sessions justified the appointment by saying Kellyanne Conway “understanding messaging” and can help turn around public perception. But is this about publicity, or is it about the preservation of life?
Surely breaking the stigma and changing the way addiction is viewed does matter, but should someone who specializes in making things look good to be in charge of how this country deals with one of the most prominent crises we face?
Treatment and Resources
Kellyanne does seem to support treatment, but to what extent it is still unclear. In one interview with ABC Kellyanne Conway did say,
“Pouring money into the problem is not the only answer. We have to get serious about in-facility treatment and recovery.”
So she at least appears to understand how crucial effective inpatient treatment is for recovery.
But when reporters mentioned the fact that there needs to be funding for these programs, she put more emphasis on “a 4 letter word called will” that seems to side-step the question- where will these resources come from?
As it now stands, White House has:
- Left the leadership role of the Office of National Drug Control Policy vacant
- Failed to release any written opioid-control strategy
- Not requested funds to replenish the national public health emergency fund that currently sits at just $66,000
In fact, President Trump’s 2018 budget request would increase addiction treatment funding by less than 2%. And don’t be fooled, that increase includes the $500 million already appropriated by Congress in 2016 under the 21st Century Cures Act with the Obama administration.
Even Chris Christie, the Republican New Jersey Governor who led the White House Opioid Commission, said:
“In New Jersey, we are spending $500 million,” he said. “I am not, quite frankly, impressed with $1 billion from the federal government for the nation.”
Strict Prevention and Punishment
When you look at what she has said on record in regards to opioids and addiction, it doesn’t really inspire a great deal of confidence. Kellyanne Conway has consistently hinted to an outdated ideology of what addiction is and how to address it.
In the past, Kellyanne has said,
“The best way to stop people dying from overdoses and drug abuse is by not starting in the first place… That’s a big core message for our youth.”
That’s right; just say no.
Critics say this aligns with the mindset of Jeff Sessions and others in the White House who seem to think that ‘Just Say No’ tactics actually work, or that purely prevention-based programs like D.A.R.E. can solve the whole problem. While prevention is important, it has proven to be ineffective as a focal point when addressing addiction.
Circling back to publicity, what Ms. Conway does seem to heavily endorse is a White House investigation for a “national ad campaign” on abuse prevention. President Trump himself had voiced his own support for a national advertising initiative to try and deter drug use.
But we all remember those commercials- this is your brain on drugs- and they didn’t really help that much.
Again, it seems Attorney General Sessions and the current administration is more focused on punishment than treatment and strict law enforcement. Sessions said the Justice Department was giving more than $12 million in grants to state and local law enforcement to help them prosecute crimes connected to:
Sessions is also ordering all U.S. Attorney offices to designate opioid coordinators. Kaitlyn Boecker, Policy Manager with the Drug Policy Alliance, has been vocal in her disapproval of the current steps being taken.
“Despite declaring the opioid overdose crisis a public health emergency just last month, the Trump Administration continues to emphasize failed prohibitionist policies while ignoring proven public health measures that we know reduce overdose death, like community naloxone distribution.”
“As we feared, the Administration is using the overdose crisis as an excuse to ratchet up the war on drugs rather than an opportunity to save lives.”
At this point, we can say that the news is not without skeptics. While many are still trying to remain hopeful that maybe because Kellyanne is so vocal and such a well-known surrogate for the president that perhaps she will be able to garner more attention to the issue.
While the fight for more resources continues, we should always encourage people to seek help. There are many safe and effective treatment resources already that have been helping people recover from drug and alcohol addiction for decades, like Palm Healthcare Company. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398